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Alex Speier

This David Price is just what Red Sox need

David Price is 5-0 in his last five starts.AP

What’s the cleanest solution to the Red Sox’ eighth-inning confusion? Bypass the middleman.

Increasingly, David Price looks like the pitcher the Red Sox need, a constant who can sail through outings of seven and, more significantly, eight innings while taking the guesswork out of the potential fumbling of a middle-innings baton. That pattern continued Friday in the Sox’ 16-2 romp against the Athletics.

Price dominated out of the chute with three no-hit innings en route to a seven-inning, two-run effort in which he yielded just four hits (and an atypical three walks) while punching out seven. With just 101 pitches, Price could have returned for the eighth, but there was little reason for him to do so in a blowout.


“He was outstanding. He set the tone for us here tonight,” manager John Farrell said in Oakland. “All in all, David has been in a really strong run here of late.”

There’s little question to the value of Price’s ability to deliver solid — and, of late, dominant — performances. He’s 5-0 with a 2.06 ERA, 34 strikeouts, 8 walks, and 35 innings in his last five starts. For the year, he is averaging just under 6⅔ innings per start.

Since the beginning of July, Price is averaging closer to seven innings per outing while posting a 2.84 ERA over 12 starts. Price continues to lead the American League in innings (190⅔ ), and he has the second-most outings of eight-plus innings (9) in the AL.

That last statistic is particularly noteworthy as the Red Sox try to make sense of what remains an unsolved puzzle in the eighth inning. In September and the postseason, the idea of being able to have a starter hand the ball directly to Craig Kimbrel would appear a compelling solution to an area of obvious vulnerability.


It’s worth noting that, of the nine qualifying starters in the AL who are averaging at least 6.5 innings per start, the Red Sox have three: Price (6.57), Rick Porcello (6.65), and Steven Wright (6.53). The Sox lead the AL with 18 starts of eight or more innings.

Certainly, the Red Sox remain hopeful that there is still time to find a solution to the eighth inning. Joe Kelly’s two strikeouts in a scoreless inning on Friday offered promise. Perhaps Brad Ziegler can prove more than a right-on-right specialist, or Clay Buchholz can lay claim to the role, or Koji Uehara can reemerge in September.

“We have a lot of candidates to do it,” president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said. “We’re hopeful [the bullpen is] going to do the job. We think they can do the job. They haven’t been — it hasn’t been a very consistent basis for us, but you know, we’ve got to find that link to fit from starter to the closer.”

Or, the Red Sox simply can find a way to leap over that bridge. Price is showing an ability, consistent with his track record, to do just that. For the Red Sox, the timing of his reemergence as the pitcher who merited a $217 million contract represents perhaps their most direct answer to their foremost dilemma.

Peter Abraham of the Globe staff contributed to this report from Oakland. Alex Speier can be reached at alex.speier@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @alexspeier.